Tiger-Cats deserve full credit for victory
QB Evans at top of game against Blue Bombers’ injury-depleted defence
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 21/09/2022 (256 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The CFL’s light, three-game schedule last week still packed a heavy punch – literally and figuratively.
The weekend kicked off with the Edmonton Elks (4-10) stunning the Saskatchewan Roughriders (6-8) at Mosaic Stadium, as Sergio Castillo’s 47-yard field goal with just seconds remaining secured a 26-24 win Friday night. What followed Saturday was another shocker, with the CFL-leading Winnipeg Blue Bombers (12-2) falling to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (3-9), who roared to a convincing 48-31 victory at Tim Hortons Field.
That set the stage for yet another nail-biter, as the B.C. Lions (9-3) edged the Calgary Stampeders (8-5) at McMahon Stadium, in a contest that required extra time, with B.C. earning a 31-29 overtime win. The fireworks didn’t stop there, either, as a physical altercation occurred moments after the final whistle blew, leading to an on-field punch and ensuing confrontation between both teams in the parking lot.
Indeed, it was a wild week in the three-down loop. Let’s get into it in the latest edition of CFL Rundown.
1) I’m sounding like a broken record at this point, but in a season filled with lows, the Roughriders hit yet another one this week. The Elks have been a tire fire all season and were facing elimination from the playoffs when they marched into Riderville. Saskatchewan had lost back-to-back games, and four straight at home, so you’d think they’d be hungry for a win.
2) Instead, they looked uninspired and what’s more, they whined about it afterwards. How many more times this year is QB Cody Fajardo going to complain about the way he and his teammates are treated by the fans? Don’t like booing, then play better.
3) Head coach Craig Dickenson put it succinctly post-game, when he said: “I’m just going to be honest: we’re not very good.” It was an honest assessment of the team, which also included blame towards he and his coaching staff. The comments appeared to have ruffled a few feathers in the locker room, with defensive back Nick Marshall taking exception to the comments on social media, where he claimed Dickenson was saying one thing in the locker room and another to the media.
4) I tweeted out last week that the main issue plaguing the Roughriders is the lack of a clear leadership group and that GM Jeremy O’Day was to blame for clearly not understanding culture, as much as talent, is vital to winning. It wasn’t long after that I received a private message from someone close to the organization saying I was bang-on in my assessment, before adding while O’Day is a nice guy, he has a difficult time building unity within the team ranks.
5) As I mentioned in my post-game column, I’m not reaching for any panic buttons following what was only the Bombers second loss of the season. Hindered by a slew of injuries, it was the Bombers defence that let them down in this one, a rare occurrence since Winnipeg’s Grey Cup run in 2019. I’ll withhold any harsh criticism until I see the club’s response next week, when they welcome the Roughriders to town. Both teams will be well rested off the bye week, in what should be a physical affair between two grumpy clubs.
6) That’s not to take anything away from the Tiger-Cats, who came out swinging from the start and didn’t let up. Kudos to QB Dane Evans for lighting the turf on fire, finishing with a career-high five TD passes. Evans has been battling some major adversity this year, much of which has been documented in these columns, and last week spoken openly about working with a sports psychiatrist. That he was able to bare his soul and follow it up with a stellar performance in a critical game is certainly worthy of respect.
7) Hamilton is now just two points shy of the Montreal Alouettes (5-7) for second place in the lowly East Division, with the two teams playing Friday night in Montreal.
8) A thrilling game between the Lions and Stampeders was marred by the foolish antics that occurred afterward. It all started when Stampeders linebacker Cam Judge delivered a punch to the face of Lions receiver Lucky Whitehead on the field as Calgary was making its way to the locker room. The punch knocked Whitehead to the ground, setting in motion a series of events that have both sides looking ridiculous.
9) The Lions were clearly unhappy with what had transpired and decided to seek out some vigilante justice. A handful of B.C. players, including Whitehead, made their way to Calgary’s parking lot looking for Judge, and while nothing much would come of it, police had to intervene to create peace. A war of words was later shared over social media, with each side participating in various versions of the blame game.
10) After the dust settled, the only disciplinary action taken by the CFL was to suspend Judge for one game. That’s an incredibly minor punishment for blind siding a player, and I imagine had Whitehead been more seriously hurt, Judge probably isn’t playing the rest of the year. It also sets a messed-up precedent, and my gut tells me the penalty is weak because the league wanted to ensure that Judge isn’t going to appeal, which he already said he won’t. Had it been stiffer, Judge appeals and is permitted to play this week in what should be a pretty interesting rematch.
11) One last thing: it’s being reported that Judge reacted to Whitehead trash talking Judge’s family earlier in the game. While I’m not condoning any of Whitehead’s alleged comments, have we really hit this point, where trash talking is dealt with physical violence in pro sports? Two wrongs don’t make a right, but Judge is lucky to be escaping without an assault charge, let alone just a one-game suspension.
12) The whole debacle overshadowed QB Vernon Adams Jr.’s first official start with the Lions. For Adams, who finished a tidy 25-for-32 passing for 294 yards, it was his first full game since starting Week 1 for Montreal. While he didn’t throw or rush for a TD, while also not committing a turnover, what Adams did do is inject some major optimism into a Lions team that had gone winless in three games following the season-ending injury to Nathan Rourke.
13) It was a significant victory for a couple reasons, including the fact the Lions won in a hostile environment. More importantly, it clinched the season series against the Stampeders, which is the first tiebreaker in the standings. The win all but solidifies second place for the Lions, which would mean a home playoff game against Calgary for the West semi-final. What a match that would be; in two games this season, the Lions have won both by a combined three points.
14) The playoff picture is quickly coming into focus as we enter the final stretch of the regular season. The Lions can clinch a playoff berth with a win over the Stampeders, which would also secure the Bombers a home playoff game, finishing no worse than second in the West. B.C. can also punch its ticket to the post-season if Hamilton and Ottawa both lose. Calgary can secure a playoff spot if Hamilton and Ottawa lose as well, so long as they beat the Lions this week, too. The Toronto Argonauts can clinch a post-season berth with a win over Ottawa and a Hamilton loss.
15) Long-time receiver and good guy Joe Poplawski has been selected as the newest member of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ Ring of Honour. Poplawski spent his entire nine-year CFL career in Winnipeg, beginning in 1978 before his retirement following the 1986 season. He was named the CFL’s most outstanding rookie and was twice awarded the CFL’s Most Outstanding Canadian (1981 and 1986). He’ll be formally added to the Ring of Honour during a half-time ceremony on Friday, Oct. 28, the Bombers final regular-season game.
16) For those curious if Garrett Marino would ever find another football home following a tumultuous 15-game run in Saskatchewan, which included several fines and a four-game suspension, the beleaguered defensive lineman has signed with the Michigan Panthers of the USFL. For the safety of his opponents, here’s hoping he’s learned from his experience in Canada.
17) Finally, my months-long investigation into Winnipeg high school football coach Kelsey McKay was published over the weekend. McKay now faces 24 sexual assault and exploitation-related charges for alleged incidents from the late 1990s to the 2000s, involving nine former players. I encourage you to read it if you haven’t, to get a better idea of the red flags that can occur and the other various lessons to be learned from the story. A special thank you to the dozens who trusted me with their stories, it wouldn’t have been possible with their support.
After a slew of injuries playing hockey that included breaks to the wrist, arm, and collar bone; a tear of the medial collateral ligament in both knees; as well as a collapsed lung, Jeff figured it was a good idea to take his interest in sports off the ice and in to the classroom.
Updated on Wednesday, September 21, 2022 6:29 PM CDT: tweaks lede